The world’s largest country boasts not only natural and architectural beauty, so when going on a tour to Russia keep in mind that it’s also a proud mother of many famous scientific discoverers, inventors and brightest minds. One might know about the Sputnik or Mendeleev’s Periodic Table of chemical elements but what other interesting creations and scientific discoveries were made by Russians which we use today?
The Founding Father of Chemistry
Fairly enough, Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov opens our countdown. This man of many talents is a noted Russian scientist and poet who lived in the 18th century and has contributed to many spheres of human knowledge. Although he was born in a poor family, his desire to learn has led him to a series of discoveries, including the founding of chemistry as a science.
Moreover, it was he who established the corpuscular-kinetic theory that states that all substances consist of molecules, which in their turn are made up of atoms. Further still, Lomonosov has made an immense input in Russian grammar, philology, astronomy, geology and even suggested the wave theory.
Everybody knows the Periodic table that logically classifies chemical elements. This genius table, which is so often used in chemistry, is the result of the hard work of a distinguished figure in the world of science - Russian chemist and scientist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev.
Organizing chemical elements logically is indeed among Mendeleev’s greatest achievements but he also made a major discovery - the periodic law. You can learn more about this scientist's life in the Mendeleev Museum as you tour St. Petersburg.
Electric Light Bulb
Ask any school kid who invented the electric light bulb and the reply will be that it’s Thomas Edison. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t him!
Not many people know this but Edison is credited for creating the first commercially practical version of the light bulb but shockingly there were 20+ successful precedent light bulb projects around the globe. After Humphry Davy invented the first electric light and the electric battery in 1802, many scientists decided to study the field. In 1874 the Russian engineer Alexander Nikolayevich Lodygin invented and patented the electric filament lamp, following that Pavel Nikolayevich Yablochkov created the electric candle in 1876, and only afterward appeared Edison’s incandescent lamp in 1878.
World’s First Aircraft
Revealing more secrets. Although the Wright brothers are known to be the first people to invent a successful airplane, were these American engineers and aviation inventors really first? Actually, historical facts claim that Alexander Fedorovich Mozhaysky, a Russian military man, and sailor, was the one who came up with the aircraft idea during the Cold War and managed to bring his thoughts to life 20 years before the Wrights!
Alexander created numerous models of the machine in the early 1880’s. And after receiving financial support from the government and the military, he even constructed a full-size version of the flying device and the plane was tested on July 20, 1882. The vehicle rose in the air and flew straight about 100 ft before it crashed, marking the day of the first human flight. You might think that it’s not a really successful result but, nevertheless, it was the world’s first working aircraft.
So why doesn’t anyone know about Mozhaysky? His invention was sponsored by the military, thus this project was labeled as “Top Secret” and therefore it was forbidden to bring it to public notice of any kind. However, there are still many heated debates on the subject, mostly on who was the first airplane inventor; other sources suggest that the origins are Brazil, India or England.
The Safety Parachute
Continuing the aviation subject, we cannot but mention Gleb Yevgeniyevich Kotelnikov who was a talented Russian inventor with a military and acting background who designed the world’s first knapsack parachute. It should be noted though that the initial parachute idea belonged to Leonardo da Vinci and frameless parachute prototypes were tested in the late 1790’s by the French balloonist André-Jacques Garnerin.
As for Kotelnikov, he was emotionally moved by the fact that a magnificent pilot died as a result of a plane crash. He got inspired by the idea of creating a safety parachute that was to be placed in a knapsack that would help save peoples’ lives in emergency landing cases. He dedicated much of his time and his own money on the creation and made his first models in the early 1910’s. Interestingly, such parachutes began to be used almost right away - during World War I.
Sputnik is one of the few Russian words known by foreigners around the world and all thanks to the brilliant engineer and inventor of this Soviet satellite, Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Korolev had a passion for space from early childhood and even projected his first glider in teenage years! Throughout his career, Sergei worked with fuel rockets, missiles, and other aeronautical projects.
But most importantly, this great man was the founder of the Soviet Space Program. The Space Program achieved many successful firsts: the launch of the human-made Sputnik in 1957, the first flight of a human to space by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961, and, of course, the spacecraft Luna 9 that landed on the moon in 1966.
If space is your "thing" too, consider visiting the top-notch Museum of Cosmonautics during your tour to Moscow.
More Inventions & Discoveries
Among other great Russian inventions that are still in use today are that of the Russian engineer and physicist Alexander Stepanovich Popov who invented the first radio receiver. Another brilliant engineer Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, who mostly worked in the sphere of developing television, created the first ever electrical microscope! And, last but not least, we’d like to mention Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, a chemist who combined his knowledge with his hobby - photography and invented the first colored photos and images. So the next time you print your beautiful travel pictures think of Sergey's creativity and bright mind.
The list of great inventions made by Russians can go on and on, but we hope that as you travel Russia you’ll make many incredible discoveries of your own!